How I bought a House, Paid off a Student Loan, Went to Europe & Iceland in One Year

It’s time to write to you about my favorite topic of the year. While I love reading and traveling, I also want to do this on a budget that makes sense with my life right now. You might have remembered some of my Quarterly Expenses Posts in the past, this is a “prequel” to what you can expect starting this year.

What Do You Mean Starting This Year?

I’ve decided that I want to be accountable and transparent about how I’m saving/spending my money on things I love. I got the idea from https://www.zeelemons.com/ which documents how she paid off her debt. What a great idea! While I won’t be following her plan, I will be following my own. I still have some Student Loans that I’m hoping to decrease substantially this year. But I also want to keep traveling because I’ve found that it’s something I really truly love.

My upcoming plan for 2019 is to come up with my budget again. Maybe change some things up based on what I truly want to do with my life. But let’s get to it!

The Overall Budget

My overall budget was pretty simple in 2018 and I plan to follow the same plan in 2019. Here’s how to start: figure out all your expenses that might be considered “unnecessary”. My example list of unnecessary expenses are the following:

  • Coffee Shops – of course I love coffee shops, but I could also make coffee at work or at home before work to cut back on expenses
  • Restaurants/Eating Out – eating out is fun, but if you’re doing it all the time, it can be expensive
  • Clothing –buy clothes only when needed (this is the hardest one for me to do)
  • Wedding/Showers – while weddings and showers just happen, it doesn’t mean you have to break your bank account doing it
  • Cell Phone – this comes down to — do you really need that new fancy phone?
  • Health/Gym – is there an easier way to work out than spending money on a gym every month that you barely go to?
  • Bookish Things –  only get these when you feel like you really like what they have (I’ve actually cut this out entirely)
  • Books – shop around
  • Gifts – gift responsibly
  • Travel — keep to travel but find it budget friendly. This year I’m really going to be accountable for this and make sure in my posts everyone knows a decent dollar amount for every travel experience. I want you to be able to travel just like me!

From my unnecessary expenses, I determined how I could cut back on this stuff. Primarily, by a certain percentage. In 2018, I tried to cut back on the above expenses by 10% based on my 2017 numbers. In 2019, my goal is to stay at the 10% decrease baseline.

Now, some of these I didn’t save on, I’ll be honest and with buying a house, my overall expenses look nothing like they did in 2017. But wherever I saved, I was able to use for the house, and student loans without feeling like I couldn’t still do things that I like.

#1: How I Paid off a Student Loan

First things I have to tell you to do — pay off loans that have a higher interest rate first. I’ve been chipping away on my higher interest loans for the past couple of years, and trust me, it’s been working. Paying off my student loan has been easier than one would think. The big takeaway here is that I do not put more money toward my loan consistently. What I mean by that, is that I don’t pay more than what’s asked every month but when I can. The easiest way to do that is by putting money toward your loans when you have some extra cash. This usually amounts to refunds from things or if, at the end of the month I have some extra cash, I add it to my loan balance.

#2: How I Saved For Travel

Let’s start with the fact that I didn’t mean to travel so much in 2018. By the end of 2017, I only had my trip to England planned. I’m really not sure what happened but I ended up traveling more than I meant to. With that, means, expenses — lots of expenses. But it’s okay, it happens and while I traveled a lot I still found time to pay for other things, so I feel like I did okay (even though I went over my 10% decrease in budget). Here’s some tips on how to travel:

  • Travel with buddies help to decrease cost
  • Find deals — daily passes etc.. really help
  • If you can drive, rather than fly, drive if you have the time, it will save you some money!
  • Eat in more than eat out
  • If you come back with money from a trip, save it for the next trip! It will be some extra cash you forgot about!
  • Bring cash with you — cash always helps you to not spend so much
  • Don’t buy a lot of souvenirs
  • Save at home — anything! On bottles, coins, credit card points, ebates, money you get from the holidays or your birthday

#3 How I Saved For A House

This was pretty easy, it took a lot of years but saving every month is really what you need to do. Take your needed expenses, you know, those that you can’t get out of and figure out what’s left. Obviously, leave some for fun but really try and put the bulk of your monthly income into your savings, if you do that, you will be able to afford a house quicker than you think! That’s basically what I did, I saved a certain amount of dollars a month to get to my goal before we bought our house.

My other advice about buying a house is to make sure you are aware of all your expenses before you go out and buy one to make sure you can afford it. You might see a house and be told you can afford it, and, you might be able to, but make sure you feel comfortable with the payments and extra money you will have to put into it. Trust me, this is important, a house is great, but feeling like you can’t do anything else ever isn’t, so be aware of all those expenses.

That’s it in a nutshell! It was a crazy year with a lot of great things. Hopefully this and my post in January will really help you pay off a debt that you have. In January, I’ll start by explaining my student loans and what my goal is for them and how I hope to pay most of them off in 2019.

Do you have a monthly/yearly budget? Have you been able to stick to it? What’s been the most difficult part of sticking to your budget? Comment below!

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